Traders say they are “devastated” and “outraged” after the county council refused to give in to demands to close a cycle lane so the long-time organiser of the market could put her “safety concerns” to bed.

Oxford business owners fear they will lose thousands of pounds as the organiser of Oxford’s Christmas Market for 14 years, Nicole Rahimi, was forced to withdraw her bid when Oxfordshire County Council “prioritised cyclists over small businesses”.

Instead, an alternative operator is being sought, with the city council already exploring a bid.

READ MORE: Oxford Christmas Market organiser 'devastated' after blow

Oxford Mail: Shany Salaniko- owner of Shany JewelleryShany Salaniko- owner of Shany Jewellery (Image: Contributed)

Eddie Reeves, leader of the county council’s Conservative group, described the authority’s failure to make “sensible accommodations” as an example of “woke wonkery of the worst kind”.

Ms Rahimi said on July 14 there was a risk the market would not go ahead under her leadership as the county council was unwilling to close Broad Street’s cycle route and introduce a diversion.

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Last year, the council put in place a diversion route which encouraged cyclists to pass through Cornmarket Street and Queen Street.

The county council has emphasised that Ms Rahimi knew the success of her bid was conditional upon allowing the cycle lane to remain open.

With more than 60 businesses at the market, traders now fear a new organiser could mean local businesses will not be given the same opportunity to sell their merchandise and gifts.

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Oxford Mail: Oxford Christmas MarketOxford Christmas Market

Ms Rahimi said the council’s “unreasonable” stance was the nail in the coffin for her business.


Oxford Mail: Sign up to Ed Halford's free weekly Politics newsletter here Sign up to Ed Halford's free weekly Politics newsletter here (Image: Newsquest)

Milly Barr, the owner of Colombia Coffee Roasters based in the Covered Market said: “This is really bad for the local economy.

“We must do something about this.”

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Oxford Mail: Milly BarrMilly Barr

Mrs Barr has traded at the Christmas Market since it was first opened by Ms Rahimi and she normally raked in between £15,000 and £20,000.

She added: “This is a tradition, and it is unforgivable the council will not make exceptions for the sake of cyclists.”

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City council leader Susan Brown said the council has “already had a second bidder for this market, and their bid has made a commitment to give priority to locally based traders where possible”.

Oxford Mail: Oxford City Council leader Susan BrownOxford City Council leader Susan Brown (Image: Oxford Mail)

She said: “We are keen to ensure Oxford continues to have a thriving Christmas market, providing a great opportunity for independent businesses and bringing extra footfall into the city centre during the busy shopping season.”

But Mr Reeves said councils were “having their Christmas cake and eating it”.

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Oxford Mail: Oxford Christmas MarketOxford Christmas Market (Image: Canva)

He said: “In one breath, Ms Rahmini remains their ‘preferred provider’.

“In the next, steps are seemingly being taken to tee up another organiser.”

Mr Reeves suggested the county council’s refusal to close the cycle lane was an example of pandering to climate change concerns.

He said: “The idea that sensible accommodations cannot be made for three weeks owing, presumably to climate change concerns is woke wonkery of the worst kind.”

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Mr Reeves said the “overwhelming majority of cyclists are decent and conscientious people” and he would be happy to “dismount or find alternative routes to avoid Broad Street during the Season of Goodwill.”

Shany Salaniko, the owner of Shany Design Studio based in Abingdon, said Ms Rahimi pulling out of the running of the market was a “big disaster and outrageous”.

Oxford Mail: Shany Salaniko at Oxford Christmas MarketShany Salaniko at Oxford Christmas Market (Image: Contributed)

She said: “They are literally taking food out of my family’s mouths as I earn half my yearly income from the event.

“A lot of small businesses will lose out.”

Ms Salaniko said she was “dismayed” the county council was prioritising a cycle route over “a major share” of her income.

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Jordan Morris, the owner of Abingdon Distillery, said his company has traded at the market for the last three years and usually brought in around £28,000 from it.

Oxford Mail: Jordan MorrisJordan Morris (Image: Contributed)

He said: “Our whole Christmas schedule evolves around this market.

“It is not great having this uncertainty hanging over our heads.

“It is a crazy situation when cyclists just need to hop off their bikes.”

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Marc Evans, Oxfordshire County Council’s spokesman, emphasised that it was important to maintain the east to west cycle route through Broad Street.

He also said that Ms Rahimi would have been aware that there would be no cycle movements within either of the two market areas where the stalls are.

There would be various informal crossing areas where people could move safely between the east and west public spaces.

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Ed specialises in writing political stories for the Oxford Mail and The Oxford Times. 

He joined in the team in February 2023, after completing a History undergraduate degree at the University of York and studying for his NCTJ diploma in London.

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